Cause-specific mortality among asbestos workers and potentially exposed workers in Belgium (2001-2009)

Laura Van den Borre, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Patrick Deboosere, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Background The relationship between occupational asbestos exposure and cause-specific mortality has been scarcely researched in Belgium, despite the presence of one of Europe’s largest asbestos groups Eternit. This study investigates recent mortality among Belgian asbestos workers and potentially exposed workers in order to further quantify the impact of occupational asbestos exposure. Methods The 1991 Belgian Census has been linked to the mortality register data (2001-2009) allowing us to compare Flemish and Brussels cause-specific mortality between 2,307 asbestos workers, 368,920 potentially exposed workers and the working population. During the follow-up period 2001-2009, 151 deaths were observed among asbestos workers and 17,670 among potentially exposed workers. Standardized mortality ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated with reference to the total working population. Results Mesothelioma mortality is significantly higher than expected for males working in the asbestos industry (SMR 3133.39; CI 1939.61-4789.72), construction industry (SMR 177.59; CI 136.76-226.77) and shipping industry (SMR 249.24; CI 145.19-399.06). Excess risks were reported for lung cancer among asbestos workers (SMR 136.54; CI 85.57-206.73), construction workers (SMR 135.99; CI 128.39-143.92) and naval workers (SMR 122.44; CI 106.13-140.54). SMR’s for laryngeal cancer are higher for asbestos workers (SMR 407.41; CI 84.02-119.06) and for construction workers (SMR 166.94; CI 129.89-211.28). Results also indicate excess in mortality due to oral cancers in the asbestos industry (SMR 305.27; CI 99.12-712.39) and shipping industry (SMR 151.28; CI 97.90-223.31). Conclusion The hazardous health effects of asbestos are not confined to the factory floor. Not only asbestos workers show elevated mortality due to asbestos-related diseases mesothelioma, lung cancer and laryngeal cancer. Workers from the construction and shipping industries also seem to experience excess in asbestos-related mortality.

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Presented in Session 3: Causes of death